Why Couldn't The End Come Sooner?

Among my many complaints about Avatar (I HATED it) was its length. Not only did it subject me to a bunch of special effects strung together by a barely evident plot and mortifying dialogue — it did it for OVER TWO HOURS. (Two hours and forty two minutes!! Seriously!)

Remember when Jurassic Park III came out and all the reviewers commented on how short it was? (Elvis Mitchell called it "lean.") There was this collective sigh of relief — "oh finally, a movie that doesn't require a bathroom break."

In today's Wall Street Journal, Eric Felton, who is a jazz singer and trombonist by trade, made the case for brevity, and extended it to music and literature as well.

Film critic Roger Ebert's mantra is that, "No good film is too long; no bad film is short enough." Perhaps it's a comment on the quality of today's pictures that most feel about two hours too long.

The same principle applies with books and music. There is so much to read, so much to hear, that it almost feels impertinent when an author takes up more than his share of one's time. I expect a book to justify every page it goes beyond number 250, which is the limit of my indulgence. I'm with Teddy Roosevelt, who wrote to a friend that he did "not feel like reading books that are too long or too serious unless they are also very interesting."

The desire for more concise literature and entertainment isn't just a function of our hyperactive, Internet-accelerated age. A century-and-a-half ago, French writer Paul Lacroix (who went by the nom de plume, Bibliophile Jacob) noted that,"We are all frightened by long books," and he singled out histories as the worst offenders.

No, Monsieur Lacroix, it is not the histories! It is the self-indulgent blockbusters that are, these days, the worst. Like, Avatar! (No, really, I hated that movie.)

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